The C Word

How can a word be so divisive? Only four letters long, the C word is isolating communities, its use is becoming more and more common and the impact more and more damaging. Today you can’t travel far without hearing the C word on television, in rap songs and the other day I even heard a little old lady use it to describe her eight year old grandson. How has such a vile, degrading and destructive word become acceptable and even common place? If you haven’t clicked yet, the C word I am referring to is Chav.

I find it shocking that the demonization of the working class, a phrase used by Owen Jones, has become widespread. In today’s politically correct word, where racism, sexism and homophobia are no go areas, the British public are resorting to our favourite prejudice, classism. What stuns me more, is the same people who called for Andrew Mitchell’s head in the plebgate saga, will toss about the C word without batting an eyelid. Perhaps the middle classes romanticise the idea of the lowly pleb, but when they need to moan about the unemployed youth, loitering on a street corner, fag in hand, bought with the benefits intended to support their twenty hooliganous children, they blame the Chav.

On the track Ill Manors, London grime artist Plan B uses the phrase “Oi look there’s a chav, that means council housed and violent”. The song, a not so subtly described critique of the coalition government, highlights many of the causes of last year’s riots. The continued disenfranchisement and alienation of the working class surely the greatest contributing factor.

Only the other day did Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough tweet lambasting “crap chav TV”. The us and them attitude seems more deep rooted than ever before. The image of the Chav, created by the neo-snobs, allows certain undesirable members of society to be dismissed as barely human. The term, described by the Fabian Society as “sneering and patronising” dismissing a swath of the population as too stupid to contribute, too leaching to be worthy of support and too beyond redemption to be worth of anything more than the gallows. It cannot be hidden we are a country divided and there is no more visible sign of this than the C word.

The Chav is a weird amalgamation of urban stereotypes and preconceptions. The Chav is the same unemployed asbo youth, who spits in your fast food meals and breeds like a rabbit for state handouts. They are the JJB clad, uneducated underclass and the knife carrying footmen of inner city gangs. They are the layabouts, terrorising suburban neighbourhoods and attaching giganormous spoilers to miniscule cars. In short, they are anyone considered beneath you.

The biggest problem with the C word is its acceptability. Use of words like p***y, f****t and n****r will almost certainly lose you your job and probably earn you a court case if you have caused sufficient offence. Yet use of the C word will earn you nodding agreements or a round of office laughter. It’s time we see it for what it is. Discrimination is discrimination. Next time you hear someone use the C word, call them a c**t.

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One thought on “The C Word

  1. Like many actual working-class people, I’ve used chav/charver since the 90s to describe the criminal underclass who terrorised the neighbourhood I grew up in. They aren’t the mythical, stereotypical terror of leafy suburban neighbourhoods, they are the real, actual terror of working-class neighbourhoods.

    Owen Jones portrays a patronising, romanticised view of the poor downtrodden masses without letting us speak for ourselves or define our own words. He focuses solely on the middle-class media’s use of the word, not its origins.

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